DALPreview

This Saturday, Austin FC has a chance to win the first silverware of its short history when it visits rivals FC Dallas (kickoff at 8:00 p.m. CT). The Verde & Black couldn’t enter the pivotal matchup in better form, riding a six-match unbeaten streak which includes four-consecutive victories both overall and in away games.

A win or a draw in Frisco this weekend would see ATXFC clinch this season’s Copa Tejas, a fan-created trophy awarded to the team with the most points from intra-Texas matches among Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Victory would also guarantee that the Verde & Black maintain their hold on first place in the MLS Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference standings for at least another week.

Austin FC Outlook

Austin FC is currently in the midst of its busiest stretch of the season, a run of five matches in 17 days which began against Charlotte FC and will conclude on Saturday against FC Dallas. Head Coach Josh Wolff’s side has been flawless at the exact moment when a dip in form might have been expected, winning all four of its matches - including three on the road - since June 30.

The team repeatedly shows a strong mentality in its ability to overcome deficits. It has come from behind to earn 15 points this season, more than any other club in MLS. As injuries, suspensions, and fatigue impacted squad selection, the team found production from a wide variety of players - some usual suspects, and others who have stepped up and delivered.

Sebastián Driussi continues to perform at an MVP-level. His 16 goal contributions are tied for most in MLS, and he earned the Club’s first-ever All-Star selection earlier this week. His attacking companions Maxi Urruti and Diego Fagundez continue to shine as well, as does captain Alex Ring and the defensive quartet of Brad Stuver, Ruben Gabrielsen, Julio Cascante, and Jon Gallagher.

Though they weren’t regular starters through the early portion of the campaign, MLS veterans Ethan Finlay and Felipe Martins have shown exactly why the Club sought to bring them aboard last offseason. Finlay has two goals and three assists in his last three appearances, and Felipe netted the winner against Atlanta, not to mention the benefits his hard-nosed leadership brings on and off the field.

Despite the Club’s excellent run, a humble and hungry mentality persists, with Saturday’s match an opportunity to achieve the first tangible success of the season.

“When I showed up here, very quickly I learned how much [Copa Tejas] meant to our supporters and to our ownership group, really both,” said Finlay. “And that’s unique, where ownership in Year 2 is already saying this matters to us. We’re prideful. We might be a new team in this market and a new team in Texas, but we want to be the best team.”

FC Dallas Outlook

Dallas is a very tough opponent to beat, as it showed in scrapping to a 2-2 draw with Austin at Q2 Stadium on June 25. Its attacking dynamic duo of U.S. internationals Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira has combined for 19 goals in 2022, and at the other end of the pitch, the defense has allowed only 10 goals in 10 home matches.

That record has helped Dallas to a 5-2-3 record at Toyota Stadium, but the team’s recent form has faltered a bit recently. Head Coach Nico Estévez’s side is winless in its last six outings and has not kept a clean sheet since May 7, a run which has seen FCD slide down to sixth in the Western Conference standings.

As any soccer fan knows though, form goes out the window once 22 players take the pitch, especially in derby matches. Dallas claimed Copa Tejas last season with a win over Austin on home turf, and will be motivated to repeat the feat on Saturday.

With two of the top five scoring offenses in the Western Conference set to square off, a key factor will be whether Wolff and Estévez - two managers with plenty of familiarity and mutual respect from working together in the past - will take an aggressive or a pragmatic approach.

Probable FC Dallas Lineup

(4-3-3, R-L) - GK: Maarten Paes; Ema Twumasi, Matt Hedges, José Martínez, Marco Farfan; Tsiki Ntsabeleng, Facundo Quignon, Paxton Pomykal; Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira, Alan Velasco